The Hindu Council UK were asked to provide information as part of a consultation to ensure that the BBC carried appropriate programming for Dharmic Faiths. Our Director of Equalities & Diversity-Dipen Rajyaguru gives our perspective:
London (CNSNews.com) – The British Broadcasting Corporation will begin devoting more time from next year to covering religion – but with greater emphasis on faiths other than Christianity.
Almost from its start in radio in the 1920s, the BBC and religion have been closely intertwined. Despite some reservations about the new technology, the first full broadcast of a non-denominational Christian service was broadcast from London’s St. Martin-in-the-Fields church in January 1924.
With the advent of widespread television viewing in the 1950s, the BBC moved into areas such of religious-themed dramas and news programs.
In recent years, however, the BBC – which is publicly funded by an annual fee charged television owners in the United Kingdom – has come under fire, with critics charging that the hours and money devoted to faith-oriented shows have dropped drastically.
According to its most recent annual report, the BBC broadcast more than 160 hours of religious programming on its television channels during its most recent year, with roughly 573 hours across its radio networks.
In apparent response to the criticism, a senior BBC source said the corporation intended to noticeably extend its religious coverage in 2017.
The BBC recognized the important role that religion played in modern life and that it would do more to represent faiths “across the board.”
This did not mean, the source stressed, that it would be diminishing Christianity or that popular long-running programs such as “Songs of Praise,” a long-running weekly show devoted to Christian hymns, would vanish.
“This move is also explicitly not a rejection of what is currently delivered,” the source said. “But a recognition of the need to do more for faith, and more for the role faith plays in modern Britain.”
Tony Hall, the director general of the BBC, will also reportedly hold a round-table with religious leaders in the new year to look at what it can do more to reflect the role of religion in modern Britain.
The Church of England did not respond officially to the developments. But several bishops over the past year, including Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, have called on the BBC to combat what they regard as an increasing lack of religious knowledge among the British.
Last October, Bishop of Norwich Graham James said in the House of Lords the corporation had not devoted enough resources to religion, which was crucial to understanding the world of today.
“I do not believe the BBC has any sort of evangelistic task, but it has an educational one,” he said. “Our increasing religious illiteracy as a nation does us no favors in our understanding of and relationships with the wider world, especially the world beyond Europe.”
Dipen Rajyaguru, director of equalities and diversity for the Hindu Council, said Tuesday it was “great that the BBC has recognized that they need to open their doors a little wider.”
Hinduism represented one of the largest and most integrated communities in the country, he said, but has not seen as much coverage as it should have.
“We have a lot to add but if we’re not invited to the table, we can only shout from the sidelines,” he said.
Remona Aly, a writer and broadcaster who specializes in religion and identity, said that her faith of Islam and other non-Christian faiths have been underrepresented on the BBC.
Over the past year, however, the BBC had aired a couple of shows that offered her hope that things were improving, she said.
One new show, which explores the global spending power of Muslims in fashion and food, was a step towards framing more “healthy narratives” around Islam, Aly said.
“I think this is a journey for the BBC and they are going in the right direction.”
Aly said she would like to see the BBC commissioning programs around major religious holidays, including the Hindu festival of Diwali, Rosh Hashanah, and the birthday of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism.
“For me, faith is a dynamic, complex, challenging, intriguing and very much lived experience,” she said. “If programs can bring that out without making the faith groups appear like bizarre creatures being viewed in a zoo, then that would be great progress.”
Director of Equalities & Diversity
Hindu Council UK